SALT LAKE CITY — The longtime executive director of Utah’s largest homeless service provider was fired Friday amid a crucial time for the nonprofit and after he was arrested and booked into jail following a domestic dispute in his Weber County home.
Matt Minkevitch, who has served as the Road Home’s executive director for nearly two decades, was terminated by the Road Home’s Board of Trustees Friday, effective immediately, according to a news release issued Friday evening.
Minkevitch’s termination was announced after the Road Home initially sent a statement to the Deseret News late Thursday stating Minkevitch had “asked for and been granted a personal leave of absence.”
“Matt has asked for privacy at this time,” the statement said. “We wish him and his family well.”
The Road Home’s initial statement did not clarify why or for how long Minkevitch had taken leave, or whether it was paid or unpaid.
The Road Home did not immediately respond later Friday when asked specifically about Minkevitch’s arrest, but later issued the statement announcing Minkevitch’s termination.
Minkevitch did not respond to a request for comment. His attorney, Walter Bugden Jr., issued a prepared statement saying Minkevitch is “committed to helping the homeless population.”
“His fears about the adequacy of bed space for the homeless population spilled into his home life,” Bugden said. “Matt cooperated fully with the police, and we will address the situation in court.”
About a week earlier, Minkevitch was arrested and booked into the Weber County Jail for investigation of criminal mischief and domestic violence in the presence of a child, according to a booking affidavit obtained Friday.
A Weber County sheriff’s deputy responded to Minkevitch’s home Nov. 7 after receiving a complaint from a teenage daughter saying “she could hear her mother and father yelling upstairs and things being broken,” according to the affidavit.
When the officer arrived, he saw “many broken items” in the home. Minkevitch told the officer he and his wife “began to argue about his job and how committed he is to it,” the affidavit states.
“Matthew became very frustrated with (his wife) and started throwing objects off the kitchen table and even flipping the table,” the affidavit states. “Matthew was yelling at (his wife), but he never threw anything at (her) or in her direction.”
Minkevitch told the officer there were three children in the home during the argument, one downstairs and two upstairs in their rooms, according to the affidavit. Because of the broken items and the fact it took place in “an area of the home that all children would have been able to hear the domestic violence take place,” the officer stated he was recommending charges.
Minkevitch was charged Nov. 9 in Plain City Justice Court with one count of criminal mischief and three counts of commision of domestic violence in the presence of a child, all class B misdemeanors. He pleaded not guilty in a hearing Tuesday, court records state, and his next court appearance was scheduled for Dec. 10.
Also Tuesday, Minkevitch’s wife was granted a temporary protective order against him, which will be considered in a hearing scheduled Nov. 27, according to court records.
Minkevitch’s departure comes at a crucial time for the Road Home. The nonprofit operates the 300-bed Midvale Family Resource Center and was selected to operate the 300-bed men’s resource center in South Salt Lake, the largest of Utah’s new homeless centers meant to revamp Salt Lake County’s homeless system and clear the way for the closure of the Road Home’s 1,100-bed downtown shelter.
The South Salt Lake center is scheduled to begin taking in men from the downtown shelter on Monday The new center’s opening and the closure of the downtown shelter are the final steps in the shift from an emergency shelter homeless model to what leaders have said will be a more service- and housing-focused model.
But as that crucial shift approaches — now as the thralls of winter descend — long-standing skepticism that the new centers will have enough capacity to offset the downtown shelter has reached new heights. Within weeks of their openings, the two 200-bed homeless resource centers had already reached capacity, and the 300-man shelter is already expected to overflow by at least 100 men.
Michelle Flynn, associate director of programs, will “immediately take on Matt’s responsibilities,” according to the Road Home’s statement.
“We are grateful to Michelle for stepping in at this transitional time for the Road Home,” said Greg Johnson, president of the Road Home’s board of trustees. “We are confident that she and the entire Road Home team will continue to work to ensure that the Road Home remains strong in fulfilling its lifesaving mission to help people step out of homelessness and back into our community.”
Even though state, city and county officials say they’re confident that overflow options such as motel vouchers, new housing units and mat space at the St. Vincent De Paul dining hall will keep all homeless clients out of the cold, protesters have demanded the downtown shelter stay open through winter. Earlier this week, protesters directed their frustrations at the Salt Lake City Council, momentarily shutting down its meeting with shouts and chants. The state now owns the downtown facility, and state officials are still intent on closing it by the end of the month.
Minkevitch’s termination also comes after a rocky period for the Road Home.
Utah politicians have been intent on closing the downtown shelter, particularly after a state audit found widespread drug use and safety issues within its walls — and after crime and lawlessness reached a boiling point in the surrounding Rio Grande neighborhood two summers ago, prompting state leaders to launch Operation Rio Grande, a multiagency operation bring the area under control.
When he was mayor of Salt Lake County, now-Congressman Ben McAdams secretly spent a night in the Road Home shelter, months later telling local newspapers his “shocking” experience, where he saw and smelled blatant drug use within the men’s dorms, witnessed violence, and told of how he “didn’t feel safe.”
In response to the state audit, the Road Home launched new security procedures, hiring a third-party security team to conduct screenings of clients and installing a walk-through metal detector.
South Salt Lake leaders — who fought tooth-and-nail against the prospect of hosting a homeless resource center — were wary when the Road Home was selected to operate the 300-bed men’s shelter, citing a “troubling” record. But state and homelessness leaders were confident the Road Home would get a fresh start with the new center and new rules and procedures.
For more than three decades, the Road Home had functioned as one of the only homeless service providers in the state, and for years it strained under growing pressure. During most of that time, Minkevitch has led the nonprofit through ups and downs.
“I made a leap of faith 30 years ago to help people in need throughout our community,” Minkevitch wrote in a previous post on his LinkedIn profile. “I have served in a variety of capacities, mostly on the front lines, working beside remarkable people who are overcoming homelessness and alongside the people I am proud to consider my teammates. Each step in this vocation has changed my life for the better. Together, we can make a difference.”